Students across majors and universities will participate in LFGhacks 2019, the inaugural FinTech hackathon hosted at Lehigh by Lehigh FinTech Group (LFG).
The hackathon is the largest business competition ever to be held at the university, according to LFG’s website. The event is expected to attract about 250 participants from more than 10 universities, including students from Lehigh, New York University, Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania.
“We think having an event at this scale that Lehigh can call its own is really cool,” said LFG co-president Cyrus Johannes ’20. “It is exciting because we are an elite university and this is an elite event for the school.”
The 36-hour event will start at 4 p.m. Friday, March 22, and end at noon Sunday, March 24 in Building C at Mountaintop Campus. The hackathon will kick off with a keynote presentation and presentations from the event sponsor Citi Ventures. Saturday events will consist of optional workshops, and participants will be able to work either at Building C or somewhere else on campus. Judging of presentations will take place on Sunday where winning teams will be awarded more than $12,000 in prizes.
Attendees will get a prompt about Citi’s data analytics and payments, and team members will work together to come up with a proposed solution that they will then present. Participants will receive more details about the prompt at the event.
In addition to the practical work students will gain, Johannes said, the hackathon will be a great networking opportunity. Mentors from Citi Ventures’ FinTech and venture capital divisions will be there to help and advise students. Students can also meet other students from different colleges and universities.
Professor Todd Watkins, executive director of the Martindale Center and the club’s adviser, said the event is great for students because FinTech is important to understand.
“So many students at Lehigh are either technically inclined or interested in finance and business applications,” Watkins said. “I think business these days can’t really function without FinTech and finding efficiencies and using technology to bring services to people in finance, business and even the nonprofit space.”
Watkins defined FinTech as applying innovative technologies to financial services from trading, to automated risk assessments to applying artificial intelligence, to name a few of its benefits.
The FinTech club, which started in fall 2017, participated in one FinTech Hackathon previously. They co-sponsored WUFT Hacks 2018, alongside University of Pennsylvania, in which Lehigh teams won five out of the eight awarded prizes.
After co-hosting the event, Lehigh’s FinTech executive board became interested in bringing its own FinTech Hackathon to campus, Johannes said.
Although there have been hackathons held at Lehigh over the years, they have been computer science competitions that required some level of coding background. For the LFGHacks, participants do not need programming experience, and it is open to all majors. One student on each team assembled on the first day must know how to code. Teams will consist of two to four students.
“It’s a FinTech hackathon. It’s not your typical coding-oriented hackathon,” Johannes said. “This is really a space for engineering students, business students, really students of all majors, to come together and think about problems within the financial world, think of creative solutions to them.”
Johannes said the focus is on the creative mindset and different ways to approach a problem.
“You don’t have to be a computer science major to be creative and think about problems with different angles,” Johannes said. “You have to think things through and put the effort in, that’s all that’s required of students at the event.”
Johannes said students do not need to develop a working program or app by the end of the 36 hours. Typically, Johannes added, groups present PowerPoint slides or something equivalent that demonstrates their creativity and outlined solution.
The event will be overnight. Food will be catered from local eateries. Throughout the 36 hours, there will be educational workshops and a video game competition.
The group has been planning the event since October 2018.
“We want to make sure we thought of everything and that [the event] is going to be beneficial to students,” Johannes said. “It is academic and professionally challenging, but it will also be an entertaining and fun event.”
Story by Madison Hoff